Keene, Henry


Henry Keene (1726?-97), a coal merchant in Blackman Street, Southwark, and later in St. Mary Over-stairs, joined Maze Pond on 3 July 1748, becoming a deacon on 20 May 1765.  Keene’s first wife, Mary, died on 16 March 1767. His second wife, Mary Winch, joined Maze Pond on 3 November 1765, remaining a member until her death in 1813.  Keene was first appointed a Deputy to the Protestant Dissenters Fund in 1757, serving into the 1780s.  Keene and Thomas Flight became Messengers to the Particular Baptist Fund in 1768, serving almost continuously until their deaths (see Benjamin Beddome to Henry Keene, 14 September 1772, Mann Collection). Like many of Flower’s London friends, Keene was a generous subscriber to the Sunday School Society in 1789 (Plan 31).  In 1795 he served, along with James Dore, on a London Committee for the Baptist Missionary Society that recommended the creation of what would later become the Baptist mission in Sierra Leone (see Abraham Booth to Andrew Fuller, 30 March 1795, Mann Collection). He was also active in the movement for political reform and religious toleration in the 1780s and early 1790s. Like Flower and Robert Robinson of Cambridge, Keene was a member of the Society for Constitutional Information (“Lists of the Members” 6).  He also served on the Committee of Protestant Dissenters for the Repeal e Test and Corporation Acts in the late 1780s.  He was present at a meeting on 4 December 1789 when a letter was presented to the Committee by a group of leading Dissenting laymen and ministers from London requesting a public meeting be held in London for all interested Dissenters supporting the repeal efforts.  Among the signers of the letter were Keene, Henry Smithers (Keene’s business partner), Joseph and John Gurney, and James Dore (Davis, Committees 40). As evidence of the radical political bent of the church at Maze Pond in the early 1790s, Keene, along with Smithers, Flight, and both Gurneys, signed a diaconal epistle in October 1790 praising the “wonderful Revolution” in France and complaining of religious persecution in England, requesting Dore to commence a series of lectures on the “principles of nonconformity, and of civil and religious Liberty” and thanking him for his “repeated exertions to advance the cause of Humanity and Universal Freedom” (“Diaconal Epistle” 216). In his will Keene left a legacy of £186.18s. to the Particular Baptist Fund (BAR 3.60). Dore preached Keene’s funeral sermon, The path of the just like the shining light (1797), which was printed for and sold by Martha Gurney. To Dore, Keene was “a just man [who] would not sacrifice his conscience, prostitute a divine ordinance, and betray the rights of the Head of the church, by qualifying for the office of justice of the peace, though many years in the king’s commission: but, had it not been for the baneful operation of the Test Act, which prevented him from administering justice in the quality of a magistrate, a man of his enlightened mind, strict principles, and public spirit, might have been a blessing to the district” (26). See Maze Pond 1.f.104, f.200, f.276, f.505, f.528, f.533; 2.f.105, f.183.